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Critical Travel Consumer Issues

By Expert Author: www.cheapfares.com

A plentiful supply of cheap travel options such as cheap fares, cheap deals, cheap airplane tickets, discount hotel rooms, cheap auto rentals, discount travel deals, and cheap vacation packages makes travel affordable for the average American. Unfortunately travelers continue to face barriers to fair and equitable treatment when they purchase and use travel services.

Disproportionate power is held today by travel providers. The government often does not quickly and effectively police abuses. Ultimately travelers will have to wait for some combination of voluntary industry action, government regulation, consumer activism, and litigation, to ensure traveler rights.

The following are critical travel consumer issues, according to Smarter Travel:

• Outmoded air traffic control exasperates delays and cancellations due to weather problems many of which could be avoided with a more accurate and dependable all weather air traffic control (ATC) system. Runway capacity limitations contribute to year round problems at major airports. Problems will only become worse unless the nation’s ATC system’s capacity grows along with air traffic.

The answer is the Federal Aviation Administration’s Next Gen satellite based navigation/communication system. While it is promising that we have the technology to help fix the problems, funding remains a problem because many airlines are balking at the expense arguing that the government should pay for the necessary equipment to be installed on airplanes.

• Hidden mandatory fees violate at least some of the truth in advertising laws. Spirit Airlines is the worst among airlines in advertising one price and consistently collecting much more from passengers before departure. Hotels, rental car companies, and other travel suppliers continue to routinely omit mandatory fees from featured prices. Government enforcement of transparent pricing laws and rules today is lacking.

• Hotel and rental car companies routinely overbook. While the federal government requires airlines to offer specific compensation to travelers bumped as a result of overbooking, there are no state or local laws specifying any overbooking compensation requirements for hotels or rental car companies. Both major hotel and car rental trade associations should develop national “customer bill of rights” procedures which spell out customer compensation or legal action should be taken by the states.

• Frequent flier program abuses abound. Airlines have total control over how they allocate or fail to allocate award seats. Frequent fliers biggest complaint is that so often no “free” seats are available when desired. When airlines advertise sale prices, the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires that the airlines offer a reasonable number of seats at those fares. The DOT should require a similar availability of award seats.

• Credit card protections are lacking for most travel purchases. In many cases the card holder must notify his bank of a billing error within 60 days of the date on which an item first appears on a card statement. Often claims are limited to purchases from merchants within 100 miles of your home. State and federal representatives need to close these loopholes in credit card protections for travel purchases.

• The U.S. suffers from an inefficient and underfunded passenger rail system that cannot keep up with current needs, much less build for the future. Europe and Asia enjoy state of the art rail systems that benefit from major improvements every few months. Only by getting Congress to consistently and seriously fund railroads can the situation improve.

• Contracts of adhesion are one sided, non-negotiated agreements that are common in the travel industry. Travelers enjoy few rights whereas travel providers can escape their responsibilities and set up road blocks to anyone trying to gain legal redress. Courts have been inconsistent when ruling whether such contracts are enforceable. Legislation will be required to resolve this problem.

• Excessive optional airline fees are often defined by any fees in excess of 200 percent of the original cost of the service. It took new DOT regulations to finally resolve problems concerning extended (over four hours) runways delays with no food, water, or operating toilet facilities. Given that airlines have proved unwilling to address grossly excessive fees, the DOT should step in.

• Meaningful price comparisons between travel providers, particularly airlines and hotels, have become difficult, if not impossible, because of fee differences. Currently online search engines present basic ticket prices before fees. Ideally search engines should provide customers the ability to search for “total prices” from the beginning.

• Survival of independent airlines is vital when you consider that the remaining four largest airlines control over 70 percent of the total domestic market. These giant airlines may well try to acquire the biggest remaining independents, especially Alaska, Hawaiian, and JetBlue. Independent airlines provide unique products and offer pricing formulas that do not copy the giants. Further airline mergers should be discouraged so long as the four largest airlines maintain such a dominating share of the overall market.

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